Have I No Mouth: on talking, speaking, spluttering, anxieties, and those uncomfortable silences

Yesterday was not one of the good days. Not to go into detail, but it was one of those days where everything seems to be constantly falling away at the seams: things fall apart, or they feel too massive for your very small self, or even the smallest gesture can send you into a panic or slip you into a spiral. Horrible, really.

And if I tried to communicate this verbally, how would it come across? I would say not very well.

Being autistic means that anxiety is my constant bedfellow. Most especially, anxiety is there every single time I open my mouth to speak, and when that mouth opens I quickly lose faith in everything that tumbles out of it. My sentences stop and start. I mumble and I run through words like they were water. I start waving my hands around because any words I have left will be terribly forced, uninteresting ones. The whole process is as if English is actually my second language, second only to flailing and spluttering and excruciating long pauses, searching for lost words. I’m very good at making eye contact with someone who is talking TO me, but if I’m the one who’s talking my eyes dart towards the left or right of the person I’m talking to and now I’ve become super self-conscious about it and I’ve started thinking that that might be too rude and that they must think I’m looking for better people to talk to than them and that’s not true because all it really is that I’m so unsure of what I’m saying and I sound terribly stupid when I say it and they probably are getting very bored of me right now and I’ve probably offended them in some way and they don’t REALLY want to talk to me anyway.

And this is coming from someone who says that she wants to embark on an academic career? Hahahahahaha.

I’ve talked about how I’m more self-conscious about my articulation and self-expression than I am about my weight, my hair, my face, or whatever part of me. People have pointed out that I am much more articulate and eloquent online than I am in person, and it actually cuts to the bone. I love writing and I loved acting because there were words on the page and I could prepare them or rehearse them. And they were THERE, they were RIGHT THERE, and only I could control or shape them. But the fact that I can never match up to the person I am in writing hurts. There’s only so much that scripting can do: meeting new people almost feels like being confronted with some new blank slates. What is it that you do with them? How do you approach them? What the hell do you say to them? What can you do when your internal script just fails you, or actually just sounds so ridiculous that you don’t use it anyway?

And then, there are the days where verbal expression just absolutely fails me. Even when I’m with people I trust and love. There are days where I’ll lose the run of myself, and feel so anxious or so pressurised that I cannot actually get the words out at all. And it’s the most embarrassing thing in the world when it happens in front of your peers, your colleagues, and people you respect: they have to watch while I try to put sentences and words together, very very slowly and painfully. I fear that to them it looks like I haven’t thought things through or that I haven’t even tried. But I have: it’s just the sense of what I want to say never translates into the right-sounding words in my head, and my brain takes slower than most to formulate a response or argument. And then I beat myself up because I start to wonder: why can’t I be as quick-witted or as sharp to respond as everyone else? Why does it take several minutes when it could take a minute for someone else? Why can’t I just be normal like everyone else is?

I guess it feeds into my own feelings about myself as an autistic woman: feeling so out of place, feeling that I don’t match up, feeling that I have much more work to do in order to fit in or to make people like me. Allistic people, I wish you knew how lucky you actually have it. I wish you knew how lucky you are, because you can actually remember to do the simple things in life like laundry and shopping, because loud noises in nightclubs or elsewhere may be bothersome but not TOO bothersome, because you’re never constantly fearing that people will hate you over a single turn of phrase, because people will never think you’re stupid or lazy or making excuses for yourself when you find yourself unable to explain why it is that you are feeling so anxious right now or why you can’t get out of bed today or something as simple as, I don’t know, early modern theatre practice.

It’s hard. But this is normal for me. It always has been. And I really don’t think it’s going to change any time soon.


Autistics Speaking Day 2013: This Is What Autism Looks Like

Today is Autistics Speaking Day. It’s a day intended to highlight awareness, to encourage acceptance, to allow autistic people to speak for themselves rather than a panel of allistic ‘experts’ creating a panic over ‘national epidemics’ and DOES MILK GIVE YOUR CHILDREN AUTISM, etc. It’s a day to make our voices heard. Inspired by the posts written by autisticook, Feminist Aspie, and at Musings of an Aspie to mark the occasion (and believe you me, they are excellent posts), I’m writing a blog post too on something that tends to be a running theme throughout related posts on this blog: what does it ‘look like’? And is it a question we should really ask? (Quick answer: No.)

Also, before I get any further on the subject, this has also been largely inspired by Kelly Martin Broderick’s work on We Are What Feminists Look Like. You can read about why Broderick started the website here. ‘Feminists are not a monolith’, she says. ‘We are diverse and unique. We don’t fit into every stereotype.’ This was perhaps crystallised for me when I went to visit NUIG’s Feminist Society table at Societies Day this year. They had placed a mirror on the stall, with the words ‘This Is What A Feminist Looks Like’ on top of it. You can wear ‘girly’ (ewww, hate that word) dresses and be a feminist. You can wear nothing but hoodies 24/7 and be a feminist. You can watch WWE and classic Doctor Who and be a feminist. You can be a man and be a feminist. And so on and so forth. There is no one ‘model’.

I guess this isn’t really the same thing (intersectional feminism ftw), but it does lead me onto the nub and thrust of this post.

Here is a recent photo of me:

uh, hi
uh, hi

This photo was taken just this week, as I was going off to do some errands that morning. I had my headphones in because I was obsessively listening to the new Arcade Fire album (still am, it’s ever so good). I actually made an effort to put on some make-up, and I was wearing my lovely winter coat. I’ve also recently finished my masters (hurray!) and making plans for the future, which are pretty damn exciting if you ask me. But more about that at a later date.

Do I look normal? Or should I say, do I look normal… by your standards? What are your expectations of what autism looks like?

There is no one ‘model’ for an autistic person. We all have different experiences and different lives. We are a diverse community, and we have our own stories to tell. That’s not to say that we don’t have shared experiences (I can’t measure how grateful I am for the above blogs, they put into words the things that are so hard to express about being autistic). Additionally, someone might comment that I look ‘high-functioning’. When, in fact, they probably don’t know about the meltdowns, the frequent bouts of anxiety, those days when you feel so incapable of doing the smallest household thing, those days when the simplest of things seem so alien or complicated to you. The days when you just can’t do anything.

Those labels are useless. We can be both ‘high’ and ‘low’ functioning. (Again, autisticook is great on this: you can read her thoughts here.) It’s a spectrum, after all, with different degrees. There’s really no way to prescribe exactly how it works. And people really shouldn’t try to.

So, if there’s one thing you do today or this evening: listen to us. Listen to our stories. Give us a chance over those ‘experts’, for a change. We’re more than willing to talk. We just want to be heard. We are what autistic people look like.

Why We Need Aspie Pride: Responding to Pathological Gomez

I realise that this is essentially a blog post telling everyone to go read another blog post, but after reading Helen Gomez’s article ‘Why do we need Aspie Pride?’ on her website Pathological Gomez, I can’t help but feel that more people need to read it. Link is here for you to follow. Feel free to send it far and wide.

Writing against the backdrop of Galway Community Pride, Helen is right in stating that ‘the experience of being an aspie in a neurotypical world cannot rightfully be compared to being queer in a heteronormative world’ (intersectionalism ftw), but that there is something to be drawn from ‘the celebration of Pride, from that all-encompassing joy in diversity of humanity and living free to express your nature, that serve as a terrific source of positivity to aspies everywhere.’ It’s this joy and recognition of neurodiversity all across the spectrum that we need so much. We need to be proud, instead of being ashamed of who we are.

We need pride because autism is NOT an ‘epidemic’.

We need pride because autism is NOT a death sentence.

We need pride because the largest voices call for a ‘cure’ (I’m looking at you, Autism Speaks), and we need to shout them down.

We need pride because allistic people still try to reassure you that NO you don’t have it and NO don’t be silly and NO you look normal, as if there’s a specific autistic/aspie mold to fit. Which you don’t, apparently.

We need pride because not everyone pays attention to the smallest details.

We need pride because there are still idiots who think vaccines cause autism.

We need pride because there is no such thing as a ‘male brain’.

We need pride because I’m sick of the amount of search items leading to my blog that run along the lines of ‘asperger women strange’ and ‘weird asperger women’ [even after that blog post, it still goes on].

We need pride because kids and teenagers really don’t know how much they can hurt someone who doesn’t fit their definition of ‘normal’.

We need pride because I should never have spent my late teens hating myself and hating my AS, and because I didn’t fit people’s definition of ‘normal’.

We need pride because education matters.

We need pride because our autism makes us who we are. No matter what position we occupy on the spectrum, don’t dare try and change us for the world.

On Being Autistic And Navigating The Minefield of Social Interaction

One of the simplest to define attributes of autism/Aspergers’ syndrome is a poor sense of social interaction. When I try and fail to describe what Aspergers’ is to people, it’s one of the things that immediately come to mind — mainly because it’s really easy to remember. (I just wish more people would ask me what it was when I have a laptop in front of me though, then I could properly explain it and then we would all benefit.) But it isn’t simply about sticking a Socially Awkward Penguin macro where my face is. Even though I do love penguins, it’s actually a lot more problematic than that. In fact, I’m going to confess right now that I am most self-conscious about my articulation and the way I talk more than I am about, say, my weight or my skin or my hair. There. I’ve said it, it’ll be committed to this blog for evermore, and you’ll just have to indulge me on this one.

Don’t get me wrong: I love people. I love hanging out with people, and I like to socialise and make new friends. Some people also happen to be some of My Favourite Things Ever, and the majority of my friends (who are mainly allistic, too) are great and really, really supportive and the best folk you’ll ever meet. The main fear that I have in writing this post is that somehow I end up trying to use my autism to legitimise being an asshole to people, which should never happen because that would let my autism define me and my behaviour. At the same time, I would argue that I have been an accidental asshole on occasion, being totally unaware that I have done something wrong or inappropriate. I can only hope that if I have done so, someone should call me out on it: I may not know otherwise, as I have a tendency to miss or completely misread some social signals, and I’ll recognise my mistake when it’s too late. In general, it’s something I try to avoid anyway, and I’m lucky to have had friends and family to have helped me along the way throughout the years. However, meeting and talking to new people, or people I admire or don’t really know that well, or talking about things I don’t particularly feel secure about in a particular situation, can bring out an awful kind of anxiety in me. I start to lose faith in everything I say, I lose the run of myself, I begin to feel under immense pressure, I begin to worry about keeping the conversation going, and, worst of all, my thoughts start going at a million miles per hour, undermining every single thing that I say.

Exhibit A

Person X: oh hi Emer how are you?

Public Emer: Oh HELLO! I’m grand, I’m grand!

Private Emer: dear god why do you always use the same script EVERY FUCKING TIME don’t you have anything else to say than ‘grand, grand’ didn’t that ‘hello’ sound a bit weird

Exhibit B

Person Y: so what are you doing for your dissertation?

Public Emer: so I’m looking at — what I’m looking at is, uh, how participants and spectators remember, and write, and talk about performance, and I’m looking at the 1999 production of Macbeth because there’s loads written on it…

Private Emer: ok now you’re sounding really stupid right now it’s a stupid idea for a dissertation anyway look they obviously think it’s stupid too

About the whole ‘script’ thing: scripts are secure. Scripts don’t change, for the most part. Scripts have words on them that I can say, and I know that they are there, and I can learn them, and they’re not going away any time soon. Life, unfortunately, does not have such scripts for me to rely on. But I almost feel as if I have to learn some form of a prepared script in order to interact with people, because if I don’t, I will sound incoherent, I will not know what I am saying, and they will think I am weird and silly and stupid. I don’t talk off the cuff in presentations and papers mainly because it’d be impossible for me to talk without some form of script or written paper: again, I would forget things, lose the run of myself, and then feel under immense pressure to sound intelligent, to sound eloquent, to sound PERFECT. One of the worst things is being stuck in a room packed to the gills with other people: you know you should socialise, you know you should talk to people, but how do you do that? How do you do small talk? Who the hell came up with small talk, anyway? To sum up: it’s exhausting, it’s incredibly overwhelming, and I end up leaving very early because I simply cannot deal with it any longer. Social interaction can be a minefield for autistic people. It’s something completely out of control and has a life of its own. Being unable to read people correctly, being unable to read the social situation correctly either, and thus not knowing what to do. It’s generally quite confusing. And when you screw up, you want to tell the person I’M SORRY THAT I’M WEIRD I HAVE ASPERGERS’, but they’ve already cast their judgement: you’re weird, or boring, or just plain strange. And then you start to worry that you’re using your autism as an crutch (again). And the cycle goes forth once more. Part of the problem is that my autism lies in the smallest of details, the smallest of interactions, the ones that are barely noticeable as anything other than ‘normal’.

I should say that it’s fine in comfortable situations. I love house parties, for example, as they’re so laid-back and people want to feed you lots of tacos and/or give you wine, and to those of you who may say: ‘but you’re never like that with ME’, please note that that is because I am comfortable with you, and that you make me feel at ease. That means that you are a good friend too, so well done you.

But in all honesty, I can’t stop that little voice in my brain rebuking me after a conversation with someone. I can’t stop the feelings of being completely overcome by noise and people and everything in between. I don’t want to sound utterly helpless though: even though some things will always be difficult, things can and have gotten better. I would love nothing more than to put paid to the feeling of losing complete confidence in my words: I know it’s something I need to work on. I’m very lucky to have people in my life who are open, loving, and who don’t mind me missing the point of their jokes or being too loud in public places, but who know to pull me in at the right time. I’ve come a long way due to a lot of help from the right people. As long as people are generally good and giving, and as long as I don’t become completely misanthropic and anti-social, I think things are going to be OK. Eventually.

Why using ‘autistic’ as a pejorative term really isn’t cool.

I realise that this is possibly along the same thread as my previous blog post about autism, but I would like to draw people’s attention to one particular thing: using ‘autistic’ as a pejorative term is stupid. Very, very stupid. I have seen it on Facebook. I have seen it in theatre reviews. I have seen it in the media. I have seen it in ACADEMIC WRITING ON THEATRE, the last of all places I would expect to find it. If you are going to describe something as ‘autistic’ or doing something ‘autistically’ [hey, Windows doesn’t think it’s a word — maybe that’s telling you something] or any of its variants, you more than likely have very limited knowledge about what the autistic spectrum may entail.

I am aware that I sound very aggressive. But for a number of people, it just seems to me that if I or any other person with autism do not act like Sheldon Cooper, or Dustin Hoffman from Rain Man, or just generally do not act very much beyond the remits of what people consider to be socially acceptable, then I or that person do not fulfill their criteria of what ‘autism’ is. Message, folks: Sheldon Cooper has never been officially diagnosed with autism or AS, and just because he acts ‘weird’, that does not give you the licence to become amateur psychologists. And the same goes for describing someone, anyone, as autistic just because they appear ‘strange’, ‘weird’, or ‘creepy’ to you. It’s almost as if autism itself is a stigma, and something to be ashamed of. Have you stopped to consider how hurtful that might be to someone who actually IS autistic? I remember reading a review of Macbeth from its US tour, that described Harriet Walter’s Lady Macbeth as being in ‘an autistic frenzy’ in the sleepwalking scene. I can partially understand where that comes from (the zealous washing of hands recalls stimming), but eh, the wife of a murderer driven by immense guilt to madness and suicide? Isn’t that a bit of an extreme case, and isn’t it a bit simplistic? I can only wish that the theatre reviewer would be a lot more careful with his adjectives.

In fairness, the shirt is pretty rad.

To me, it’s comparable to ‘that’s so gay’, which is an incredibly offensive term on its own. Feel free to scoff, but when your autistic traits are so integral to your identity, as much as your sexuality is (whether you’re gay, straight, bi, asexual, trans*, etc), it’s hard not to think of it as an ignorant, ill-informed assessment. Autism is not ‘weird’. It may have its pitfalls, but more importantly, it makes me who I am, and that person isn’t going to change any time soon. As Feminist Aspie astutely puts it, ‘I’m sick of hearing that I and others like me can’t live a full life. We can, and we do. We just need a little help sometimes.’ I couldn’t put it better myself — a little understanding and compassion goes a long way.

So, I ask you to think. And to be a bit more careful when you’re choosing your words. It’ll save me slamming my head into my desk (again), at least. And while we’re at it, let’s stop using the R-word too. That also sucks.

The Burning Question: Why Are Aspie Women Weird?

Logging into wordpress today, I had a cursory glance at the search terms that have recently led people to my blog. Other than terms relating to The Great Gatsby (seems like a lot of you like Leonardo DiCaprio), I noticed one which was slightly different from the rest.

It was: ‘why are aspie women weird’.

Gosh, good question anonymous Google / Bing / Yahoo searcher person. It’s a burning question that I, and so many of us weird aspie women and other allistic women (‘allistic’ means that you specifically don’t have autism/AS, by the way), have been attempting to answer for 800 years. It’s a question more important than why the sky is blue, how many children had Lady Macbeth, and why there was a potato famine in the 1840s. Actually, anonymous Google / Bing / Yahoo searcher person, how weird would you rate allistic women? Are they a weeny bit weird? Weirder even? Or, like Little Bear’s porridge, just right?

I notice that I’m making a lot of generalisations about allistic women here, anonymous Google / Bing / Yahoo searcher person. Not every allistic woman is the same, and it’s incredibly unwise to make such oversweeping statements. But anonymous Google / Bing / Yahoo searcher person (this is becoming a mouthful here), women with AS are not all the same too, nor are anybody on the autistic spectrum. I don’t know what image you have in your mind of what aspie women are and ‘should’ be, but if I were you, I’d scotch it right now. Because that image may fit one girl or woman, but it may not fit another. And it certainly won’t fit another after that. You know that analogy that the Tenth Doctor (you watch Doctor Who, right? Well, I’m assuming you do for the purpose of this) makes about time? That ‘it’s a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff’? You could compare that to autism. It’s not narrow and contained, it ebbs and flows, and people occupy different positions on the spectrum. Well, something like that. By the way, we’re not all made of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff, just so we’re clear.

I realise I’m dodging your question though, and I’m sorry for that. I guess my answer for you would be, I don’t know, My Little Ponies? Thomas Middleton? The polar bear from Lost? Or we all could blame Seamus Heaney. OK, now it is official: Seamus Heaney made aspie women weird. Thank you all for your time, and don’t let your aspie women near his translation of Beowulf. Thanks for saving the internet, anonymous Google / Bing / Yahoo searcher person. You might just save the world one day.

So, You’ve Been Diagnosed with Aspergers’ Syndrome

Heh, terrapins.
Heh, terrapins.

I learned that I had Aspergers’ syndrome when I was fourteen years of age. I have been consciously living with it for eight years now. No, scratch that – ‘living with it’ makes it sound like a disease, a living condition, a debilitation. And you know what? It really isn’t that. Of course, I’m not going to deny that it doesn’t present its own difficulties and problems. But if I were to lay all my problems and difficulties in life at the feet of my AS, would that be helpful? No. If I do badly in an essay or exam, is it because of my Aspergers’? No. If I fall out with someone, is it necessarily always my Aspergers’ fault? No, no, and no.

This perhaps pre-empts what I want to talk about here (which is almost a follow-up post to what I wrote last year on the topic) – what do you do when you are diagnosed with Aspergers’? How do you deal with what perhaps could be termed as another ‘label’? I don’t claim to be an expert, but I’ve been dealing with AS through trial and error over the past number of years – learning what to avoid, learning what to embrace about it, and generally learning more about myself, how I interact with other people, and how I live my life. This was, and still is, with the help of supportive and patient family members, friends, and other loved ones who have recognised the problems I have had and helped me to rise above them. But in saying ‘problems’, that is failing to recognise the positives of having AS. It’s not the end of the world if you get a diagnosis. It’s more so gaining a profound aspect of who you are, one that should never be dominant and yet one that should never be suppressed.

I’m learning more and more about Aspergers’ as each day passes. I talk to other people on the spectrum about our similar actions, our similar traits – and whereas before I would assume that the stranger things about me were somewhat unique to me, it’s really quite heartening to hear that others have the same quirks and the same habits as I do. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one with such a visual memory, who gets stressed or very focused about particular things, and who absolutely can’t bear loud pubs at a certain time of night. Conversations like these are incredibly helpful to share survival tactics. That’s why it’s so important to talk to others. It can be easy to be lonely and to have your own thoughts for company, but that can be dangerous. (I’ve still yet to master that. Give me a few more years…)

But in general, talking about your Aspergers’ helps. Not just to others on the spectrum, but your friends, your family, people you know and care about. It’s not something that has to be talked about in hushed tones. That’s not to say that you should drop it into EVERY SINGLE CONVERSATION THAT YOU HAVE WITH EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON THIS PLANET. That leads me onto another thing: don’t let your AS define you who you are, and what you do. Not every person with Aspergers’ shares the exact same traits – recent research has shown how differently it manifests in men and women, and not everyone occupies the same spot on the autistic spectrum. Most importantly, don’t let AS become a crutch, and don’t let it become an excuse for who you are. Never, ever, let it get in the way of what you want to achieve. And never ever let it get in the way of establishing meaningful relationships with those who would be considered ‘neurotypical’ (NT). Around the internet, I’ve seen a cultivation of the AS vs NT attitude, which could be comparable to Us vs Them. It really isn’t healthy, and it’s quite judgemental. The majority of my neurotypical friends and family have been supportive, wonderful, and mindful – can I really sweep them under the NT brush? Of course, you’ll have days where you just want to be ‘normal’, but everyone, regardless if they are autistic or not, has their own problems.

Here is a final note. Just because you have discovered you have AS does not mean that the people in your life will stop loving you or treat you differently. They may take into account certain things that cause you difficulty or stress, and they will more than likely be really curious about the ins and outs of AS, but taking an interest is a much more positive action than ‘Oh no, you really don’t have it…’ Be proud. It makes you special. It’s part of who you are. Embrace it.

The (slightly sentimental, slightly mawkish) Year in Review 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that my annual report would be the most impressive thing that you’ll see this year, but it’s nice to see how far the blog has come. (And there are fireworks too!) I’m personally glad to see that ‘Women with Asperger’s syndrome’ was a particularly popular post, and of course, one is always very happy to see that picture of Mick Jagger from Bent again.

However, it has got me thinking about the year itself. At this present moment in time, I’m pretty much halfway through my masters degree, I’m in the UK, it’s my first Christmas as a postgraduate student, and also it’s my first Christmas HAVING TO WORK OVER THE BLOODY HOLIDAY PERIOD. You can add a optional ‘Gah!’ after that last bit, if you so choose. I’d like to think that at this point, I’ve adjusted more to what is expected of you as a postgraduate. I feel that I’m almost settling into a groove of sorts, knowing what level to work at. Well, maybe — we’ll see what happens when the final essays for this semester come in, how second semester pans out, and when the dissertation kicks off next summer. But in general, this year has been all change, change, change. In more ways than one.

There are *some* constants. I’m happy to announce that I’m still in love with Shakespeare, in fact I probably love him even more now. I’m happy to announce that the friends and family I care about are still here, whether they are still in Ireland, reside in the UK, or further away. And I’m happy in Stratford, which has been almost a new beginning of sorts. I know I’m starting to sound like a Stephen Gately song, so any better turns of phrase will be very much appreciated in the comments.

I haven’t had any major problems with 2012 (it still has one more day to completely mess around with me though). I’m hoping that this time next year, I can say the same about 2013 (don’t mess around with me either, please). I hope all of you have as much fun as you can possibly muster in 2013, just as long as you don’t go too crazy on the pink lemonade while you’re at it.

Women with Aspergers’ syndrome — a strange and wonderful phenomenon

I have Aspergers’ syndrome. I’m perfectly fine, thank you for asking. And please don’t be shocked or offended if I haven’t told you. It’s not the first thing I would usually blurt out to people upon meeting them for the first time (unless I felt that I was behaving really weird that day — now you know, guys). At the same time, however, I don’t think it’s something to be very hush-hush about. It’s not something I can change with a quick trip to the hospital. Then again, it’s not something that I want to drop into every single conversation that I have with every single living being on this planet — who wants to be solely known as ‘the girl with autism’ anyway? It’s a mass of contradictions, I know.

Here is a list of common reactions of friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. when I inform them that I have Aspergers’:

a) ‘Really? Oh, OK’

b) ‘We didn’t know!’

c) ‘I thought you were just quirky’

d) ‘Oh no you don’t, don’t be silly’

Up until recently, women didn’t fit the bill of what is generally considered to be AS (I have problems myself describing it. I guess a good way of breaking down what it actually comprises, or mostly even, is here). I’m not saying that women and girls don’t share all of those characteristics, but they are generally less noticeable than they are in men and boys. For example, those special interests. Some of them are pretty baffling. Luke Jackson talks about his obsession with string and batteries as a child in his book Freaks, Geeks, and Asperger Syndrome — of course, he outgrew that, but all the same, these special interests remain rather specialist. An article in Newsweek put it better than I ever could:

‘… the things most boys get obsessed with are difficult to shrug off as quirky. Imagine, for example, a 7-year-old boy with encyclopedic knowledge of vacuum cleaners or oscillating fans but almost no friends or playmates’ (Said article is here, and well worth a read).

It has only been in recent years that there has been research conducted on women and girls, and so, for a long time, the template for diagnosing AS usually lay in the characteristics manifesting themselves in men and boys. Which can be hardly be helpful. In the case of special interests, in girls they are said to usually extend to cute animals and classic literature. Which I suppose is really no surprise to anyone. But in this climate of Cute Overload, lolcats, and people generally going to college to get a degree and stuff, this is not classified as ‘weird’ — unless you have sat near me while I have rifled through pictures of cute puppies or kittens on Google (and for that, I profusely apologise). Also, there is a book called All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome and I can tell you right now that it is possibly the best book EVER.

alas, to prove my point, I have to include some photographic evidence. OH SWEET JESUS THE CUTENESS. Look at him. Seriously!

In the case of classic literature, I’ve had to read tons of it over the past four years! I guess that it is here that going into academia has its benefits. Getting paid to obsess over that kind of thing, when you consider it, is really a nerd’s dream.

But there’s one thing that I find lacking in anything I read about women with Aspergers’, or indeed in writings about anyone with autism at all. Intervention is a big help, especially at an early age and if it is very, very severe (I can speak from experience), but I don’t think that there is much written about acceptance, or pride — and that’s just as important too (there are exceptions — Temple Grandin has made massive successes for herself). For that, I refer you back to that list from earlier. Have a look at the answer under d). It is possibly the most insulting response that I can think of. Not to get on my soap box or anything, but it just implies that AS is worse than it actually is.  In saying that, I don’t want to dismiss others who may have had problems and of course the problems I myself have had, but if I must sound corny, Aspergers’ has played a part in who I am. If that was taken away from me, I don’t know what person I would be as a result, and to be honest, I don’t want to know. To quote a friend of mine (whose reaction, I guess, falls under the a) category), ‘that’s not a disability’.

I didn’t want this to be an exercise in self-pity. That’s not the way forward. Besides, I can think of one advantage of having Aspergers’ syndrome. Sherlock Holmes is largely disputed to have had it. Ergo, by that logic, I must clearly be Sherlock Holmes.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?